Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice ★★★

DC Extended Universe Entry #2 & My Must Watchlist for 2016 Entry #3

I'm mainly writing this review because I feel obligated to respond the largely negative word-of-mouth this film has garnered from critics and DC Extended Universe haters. I'll acknowledge that there are some questionable creative decisions concerning the film, but even if you took issue with all of them the movie would still come out good. Below I've analyzed the films good, bad, and neutral qualities to better argue its merit. Let's review:

>Negative:

*Batman Killing People-Might as well start off with the elephant in the room. In case you hadn't heard, Batman kills people in this movie. Although to be fair this isn't the first film this has occurred in. Batman killed the Joker in "Batman (1989)", two thugs in "Batman Returns", and accidentally killed Harvey Dent in "The Dark Knight". But I'm pretty sure why we're hearing outcry about this instance is that it's very blatant killing with a high body count. In all the Batman films prior to this one the debatable body count is always in the single digits and almost never goes past five. As opposed to this film where the body count could easily be two dozen or more. Never missing a chance to add fuel to fire, Zack Snyder has given two poorly though out justifications for why this is;

1) Well, Frank Miller did it in "The Dark Knight Returns"!: As this article points out, at no time in "The Dark Knight Returns" does Batman kill any body. Frank Miller's Batman ardently sticks to his no kill policy and only uses guns when he has no other option. The only reasons I can think of for Snyder misconstruing the entire point of this legendary comic are that he either hasn't read it for a very long time or he has literacy issues. Anyway, when this stupid excuse fell through Snyder's second justification was...

2) Well, it's only sort of killing right?: This article cites Snyder's exact words as Batman's body count being "more like manslaughter than murder". His reasoning is that Batman is killing criminals by proxy, such as shooting cars and flamethrower tanks, letting criminals shoot each other by grappling criminals arms and redirecting them, letting a bad guy's grenade blow people up after deflecting it, etc. And to Snyder's credit this is technically true because Batman is indirectly killing criminals, but it is killing none the less.

Something else I feel obligated to point out is that Batman also brands certain criminals in this movie and said brand is considered a death mark in prison. So there's that too. Suffice it to say Ben Affleck's character fights crime more like Midnighter than the classic Batman we all know and love. But fear not, there is something else in this film that makes this entire negative point slightly more palatable (which I'll discuss in the "Positives" section).

>Neutral:

*Amy Adam's Lois Lane-In the older Superman film series Lois Lane existed for two reasons;

1) To be a love interest for the hero.

2) To be saved a lot by the hero.

This version of Lois Lane is better overall because this film and the one preceding it incorporated the no nonsense reporter aspect of her character from the comics. Something else I liked is that it's shown Lois Lane is smarter than the average and recognizes Supes in the previous film and is in a genuine relationship with him in this film which comes off as very believable because Adams and Cavill have great chemistry. But on the other hand Lois is saved three times throughout the film, two of which were pretty contrived. Hopefully Snyder sheds this aspect of her character in future films.

*Jessie Eisenberg's Lex Luthor-Once again Snyder got half of the characterization spot on. This version of Lex Luthor has the ridiculously smart, mad scientist, superiority complex, and lust for power down pat. But Eisenberg's version is missing the charisma and intimidating presence of the two previous live action depictions of Luthor. Overall a portrayal that is more Mark Zuckerberg than Lex Luthor, but very far from bad.

*Superman's Death-Superman's death would have had much more impact farther down the line (say in Justice League: Part 2) when the audience and more in-universe characters had grown to care for and respect him. This stings just a little more because it's obvious in-film that Snyder doesn't plan on Supes staying dead for long. But what keeps this from being a negative is that Superman's death does stand for something. Batman wants to do right by Superman's legacy by seeking out other metahumans to help keep the peace, which will ultimately result in the foundation of the Justice League.

*Something is coming!?!: Near the end of the film Batman visits Luthor in prison to warn him that he will always be watching him. But as Batman turns to leave Luthor says, "The bell has been rung and cannot be unrung aliens from beyond the stars have heard the call: God is dead. He is coming". Now being a comic book fan I know who Lex is talking about and am psyched about seeing "Him" on film, but how does Lex know about "Him"? Was it the Kryptonian invasion that put a bull's-eye on Earth? Or was it something that Luthor did? It's never made clear. Hopefully the extended cut of the film will clear this up.

*Batman's Obsession with the name Martha: When Batman is about to kill Superman, Superman blurts out that he has to save Martha. Bruce stops himself and demands to know why Superman said that name. I know the writers were trying float the idea that Bruce Wayne is fixated on the death of his parents (his mother in particular), but Batman freaking out at the very mention of the name comes across as a little goofy and diminishes the moment somewhat.

>Positives:

*Flash Forward (AKA the Knightmare)-I thought I should bring this up first because this point ties in with the previous "Neutral" point. At first glance the Knightmare seems like bad dream the Bruce Wayne has about Superman becoming a threat to Earth. But after hearing Lex's warning of beings beyond the stars, the entire scenario is shown in a whole new light. The giant omega symbol carved into the landscape, the parademons assisting Superman, and the Flash's warning suddenly make it very clear who Bruce was right about being afraid of. Knowing this turns the Knightmare from a bad dream into something awful that may yet come to pass.

*Batman's Character Development-This is the payoff for the "Negative" point I mentioned earlier. Near the beginning of the film when Alfred becomes aware of the Bat brandings he says to Bruce, "That's how it starts. The fever... the rage... the feeling of powerlessness that turns good men cruel". This hints early on that Batman was not always so brutal fighting crime. Later in the Batcave we see Bruce starring sadly at Robin's suit in a display case with graffiti from the Joker on it. This hints that Batman's partner Robin existed in this film's universe but was murdered by the Joker. When Bruce is telling Alfred about his plan to kill Superman the two have this exchange;

>Bruce Wayne: I'm older now than my father ever was. This may be the only thing I do that matters.
>Alfred: Twenty years of fighting criminals amounts to nothing?
>Bruce Wayne: Criminals are like weeds, Alfred — pull one up, another grows in its place. This is about the future of the world. It's my legacy.

All of these facts give the impression that Batman has become cynical seeing little lasting impact from his war on crime and from losing his friend/partner to a madman. This changes after Bruce teams up with Superman and watches him die. When given the chance to brand Lex Luthor for all he's done (which will likely lead to Lex's death from what we know of the brand's reputation) Bruce doesn't do it. Meeting Superman changed Bruce for the better and gave him back his idealism. Whether this character arc existing is good or bad is up for debate, but it is certainly interesting.

*Jeremy Iron's Alfred-Jeremy Iron's Alfred was not only a great performance but the best portrayal of Alfred on screen yet. Burton's Alfred acted as Batman's butler and Nolan's Alfred acted as an occasional advisor to Batman. While Snyder's Alfred acts as Batman's conscience and therefore has greater impact on Bruce's character.

*Ben Affleck's Batman/Bruce Wayne (Sans the Killing)-Despite Snyder's depiction of how Batman deals with criminals I really like Ben Affleck's version of Batman. His demeanor is pitch perfect and his gear is awesome to boot. He has a voice modifier so he doesn't sound like he has laryngitis. His Batmobile, Batplane, Batsuit, Armor, Grappling Gun, Grenade Launcher,Tracking Rifle, and Batarangs look and operate awesome onscreen. But what's equally important is portrayal of Bruce Wayne. At the start of the film when others are running away from the danger in a crumbling Metropolis, Bruce Wayne is running toward it to save his coworkers and employees. This guy cares about his father's company and the people who work there because he personally runs the place. As opposed to Bale's portrayal that mostly used WayneTech as a tool and only really cared about one employee (Lucius Fox).

*Henry Cavill's Superman-Unfortunately Henry Cavill isn't getting the praise he deserves as Superman, mostly because he's living in the shadow of Christopher Reeve's Superman. And while Reeve is one of Superman's most iconic portrayals, I think Cavill's is a slightly more mature take on the character. All of Superman's actions have consequences, he is feared and scrutinized by humanity, but he soldiers on anyway. In this version he is a realistic idealist because he constantly struggles with self doubt.

*Gal Gadot's Diana Prince/Wonder Woman-Despite her lesser amount of screen time Gal Gadot charms the audience with her mystique as Diana Prince and blows away their expectations as Wonder Woman. I can't wait for her solo film!

*Superman's Parents-Both Kents are full of good advice in this film. Martha Kent tells her son, "Be their hero, Clark. Be their angel, be their monument, be anything they need you to be... or be none of it. You don't owe this world a thing. You never did". She's telling her son he has the right to a normal and he shouldn't obligated to be the Earth's savior. What he does with his life is his choice. A rather fresh perspective considering how "with great power comes great responsibility" has been hammered into our brains. Johnathan Kent throws in two cents in vision telling Clark that sometimes when you're doing something good you may unintentionally hurt someone else, but that shouldn't stop you from trying to help people.

*Batman Doesn't Need a complex Origin Story-It seems every character no matter how iconic needs a new origin story every time a franchise starts up again. This film made the wise assumption that most people know who Batman is. The film shows Bruce's parents being killed and the discovery of the Batcave. That's all the audience sees and that's enough.

*Expanding the Universe-Showcasing other DC heroes could have been lazily done with forced cameos that hampered the plot, but it was rather cleverly done here. Diana Prince gets here hands on data Bruce Wayne stole from Lex Luthor. The data not only has photo of Diana from 1918, but has found footage of a speedster stopping a holdup, a man destroying machines in the depths of the ocean, and an disabled man being fused with an alien device. Very clever Synder. Kudos!

*The Fight Scenes-The action scenes in this film are glorious! Firstly you have the cinematic fight comic fans have been waiting decades for which doesn't disappoint. Secondly Batman rescues Martha Kent with the best Batman action scene ever that looks like it was pulled straight from the Arkham games. Thirdly DC's Big Three make their big screen debut and throwdown with Doomsday with a rather poignant ending.

There you have it. My in depth look at the DC Extended Universe's second entry. I feel obligated to point out on a technical level this movie should have sucked. The reception to "Man of Steel" was lukewarm at best and as a result this film was trying to cram so much into itself to catch up to the Marvel Cinematic Universe before DC missed its chance to start a film universe for a second time. Because of these facts I really expected to dislike this film but ended up really liking it instead. So don't write this film off until you've seen it with your own eyes. You might just be as surprised as I was.

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